*Please note this post may contain affiliate links. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies, and recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. If you click on one, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my Privacy Policy for more information.* 

Are you planning a quick trip to London and trying to maximize your ‘best of the best’? Trying to decide if you should take a ride on the London Eye And River Cruise? No worries. I spent time on both and have uncovered all the pros and cons for you! Better yet, I give tips and suggestions for autoimmune warriors to ensure your health and well being are given the utmost consideration as part of your decision. Read on for details.

What Is The London Eye?

Many people have seen images of the iconic London Eye, a giant enclosed ferris wheel that paints the sky with panoramic views of the city. Many times during the year, such as the holiday season, London is adorned with festive lights and thus creates a magical and enchanting experience on the Eye.

 London Eye And River Cruise dilemma...view from the atop the London Eye

What Is A River Cruise?

But have you heard or read about a river cruise down the River Thames? In the literal shadow of the London Eye is the tranquil flowing waters that combine unique blends of relaxation and exploration. Take a cruise, and you can sail through the heart of London surrounded by the city’s historic landmarks that loom larger than life all around you. All for free!

london river cruise

Best Sights Of The London Sky

The overwhelming reason for taking a ride on the London Eye is a chance to marvel at the breathtaking views of architectural wonders of London. In addition, there is an audio guide to connect you with the rich history and geology of this awesome metropolis. The London Eye lets you engage your creativity as you soak in the cultural significance of the landmarks.

The stunning nighttime views and the festive illumination make for fantastic photo opportunities. Capture memories against the backdrop of a sparkling London skyline for an keepsake. Bring along a travel journal to extend your healing during your travels.

Unforgettable History of The River Thames

A river cruise on the Thames is not only educational but also an opportunity to revel in the beauty of a thousand years of history. After the cruise is over, embrace the empowerment that comes with navigating the walk back. This is a chance to surround yourself with other pedestrians along London’s streets and timeless charm. As for the boat ride itself, read below for relevant details.

There is a live commentary (if you choose, they take a vote) and it’s quite good. Toilets and snacks are available on the boat.

Various topics are covered during the ride, primarily London’s history. Some highlights include: 

  • HMS Belfast – History of the moored museum ship
  • History of the Waterloo Bridge
  • History of several boats, war gifts, and arches along the City of Westminster
  • You’ll learn why there’s no advertisements along the Kings Highway
  • All about the Old Alexander Railway Bridge
  • Fun facts about St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Little known facts about Sir Christopher Wren
  • What makes Shakespeare’s Globe unique as the only thatched roof in London and about the live entertainment authentic to Shakespearean times…it’s archaic lighting and heating system.
  • Local history surrounding the famous London Bridge
  • London Fire history
  • Billingsgate Fish Market fame 
  • Tower Bridge up close photos, unlike most on social media

So Which Should You Choose?

As you can see, both attractions offer an amazing experience. However, they are distinctly different and if you need to choose one over the other, it’s important to know all the particulars. You want the experience that is the very best for you, tailored to your specific wants and needs. I sorted the attractions into six categories and weighed out each pro and con to aid you in this process.

Crowds and Wait Times

London is a popular destination any time of the year, but certain seasons bring larger crowds and potentially longer waiting times, especially for the London Eye. This may impact the overall enjoyment, especially for those looking for a more serene experience. 

London Eye
This is the line for the London Eye during the Christmas season. It is about a 20 minute wait.

London Eye
This is the line for the London Eye a day later. It’s about a 90 minute wait.

The best bet is to wait until you arrive at the pier and check out the line. if you buy your ticket ahead of time you won’t know how long the wait is. Of course you have the option of purchasing a fast pass to expedite your service.

However if the queue is extremely long and you have other factors like being tired or hungry, it may be best to rearrange the schedule until those negative factors are sorted out. Overpaying or feeling travel-related stress will hinder your experience, and the whole goal is peace and self healing.

London Eye tickets
But your tickets here after you’ve evaluated wait times

For boarding the River Cruise, go to Westminster Pier located at the Waterloo Millennium Pier, (Stop #18) on the north-west side of Westminster Bridge, Victoria Embankment, London SW1A 2JH. Then show your Big Bus Tour general pass to the ticket collector. There are multiple boats, but navigating to yours is easy with the helpful staff to answer your questions.

River Cruise entrance
This is where you enter for the free river cruise via the Big Bus Tour

You also have the option of boarding at Tower Pier. This would be a short walk from the Big Bus Tours stop at the Tower of London (Stop #16) on Lower Thames St, London EC3N 4DT

River cruise London
Even on an overly crowded day, the river cruise is peaceful

The waiting time for the river cruise is about 10 minutes.

Weather Conditions

Winter weather in London can be chilly, and there’s always a possibility of rain. Dressing appropriately is essential to ensure comfort during either ride, a cruise or the Eye. If you have special temperature needs due to autoimmune disorders (like me) the comfort regarding weather is essential. If cold or rain is inevitable, then the London Eye is the perfect cozy shelter. Alternatively, if it happens to be a very sunny day, again the London Eye is the preferred choice for people with lupus. Finally, a further consideration is that unfavorable weather might affect visibility.

Costs

Peak season ticket prices for the London Eye may be higher due to increased demand. Budget considerations should be taken into account, especially if traveling with a family or group.

If you do a Big Bus London tour, you will get a free river cruise on the River Thames, regardless of whichever ticket you purchase. However, it is only a one way ride. You will need to walk back to your starting point which is the Waterloo Millennium Pier. You also have the option of catching a Big Bus back. Just use the app to find your nearest stop.

Final thoughts on cost…on the one hand, you would be maximizing your budget by taking a river cruise, since it’s free. On the other hand, the London Eye is only €25 so it’s not a huge investment. But the London Eye is only a 30 minute ride, so you’ll have to find another attraction to fill your day. 

 Potential for Sickness

The London Eye’s slow rotation usually minimizes motion sickness, but it’s still a consideration for some individuals, especially during the nighttime when the lights and movement might be more pronounced. 

The River Thames cruises could create motion sickness for sensitive individuals. The gentle rocking can be treated with an over the counter pill, if your doctors approves.

Another consideration for health is that of social distancing. If avoiding sickness due to a compromised immune system is a factor for you (as it is for me), the river cruise provides a wide, open air setting, whereas the London Eye is an enclosed space.

Social distance, and healthy travel, is easy.

Accessibility

The London Eye is accessible to people of all ages, making it a family-friendly activity during the holiday season. Once on the ride, there are seats. However seating is available on a first come first serve basis.

On the riverboat cruise, there are seats for everyone. You choose whether you want to sit on the upper deck or down below.

river cruise

Views

The River Thames boat cruise gives you a beautiful view of landmarks up close. 

London Bridge

London Eye gives a birds eye view of the gorgeous city. Sunsets are exceptional. Fog will impact your views.

River Cruise Walk Back

If you opt for the river cruise, you can complete your experience with a 45 minute walk back to Waterloo Pier. You begin your walk as soon as you leave the boat. Grab your field guide because during the walk you’ll want to connect with your heart and your surroundings.

River cruise London
Leaving the boat

The majority of the people that were on the cruise are also heading back to the starting point, so it is easy to simply follow the crowd.

Other logistics for the walk…there are occasional opportunities to sit, but not to use a restroom. A suggestion is to the bathroom before you leave the River Cruise. Even if you don’t think you have to go. It’s not fun walking when you have to go to the bathroom.

Finally, if you enjoy good old fashioned walking as a form of transportation, you will love the feel of this experience. 

Thames walk
Most of the River Thames Path looks like this

After you’ve walked about 15 minutes, you will cross through an enclosed area to continue the Thames Path walk.

This is a less than one minute walk. You continue along for another five minutes until you reach a section of sidewalk that shares luxurious looking hotels. A short few steps along the road and then you will turn left and back on the river walk.

sign walk London

One last detour is at the Blackfrairs Bridge. This is where you’re rerouted onto a sidewalk a bit away from the river. Now the London Eye is in view and you’re almost there!

The London Eye And River Cruise – Which Is Better?

Of course there is no “better” since both are incredible London attractions. A ride on the London Eye or a River Thames cruise are equal winners and guarantee lifelong memories. Rather than judge or compete, choose the attraction that is best for You, taking in all considerations of cost, weather, health, and style. As long as you put your wants and needs first, you can’t go wrong. Finally, you may decide to do both attractions, and that is awesome. If you can do both, physically and financially, go for it. When you’ve covered all the sights and sounds in London, how about a day trip to Stonehenge?

Related Reading

Share